Relationship between Correctional Officers and Prisoners

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It is a correctional officer’s job to maintain order within a prison. When inmates have a job in prison it can sometimes go wrong and officers are kept on their toes while working alongside them. Illicit behavior by prisoners can go unnoticed due to the number of officers on the job and implementing stricter rules on the sub rosa economy can have consequences.

Prison officials continue to allow prisoners to work because it is a form of inmate control. Having a job in prison gives them a sense of freedom, provides a daily routine, and a source of income. Not only is it beneficial to inmates, but also for prison officials. Inmates work in the cafeteria, laundry facilities, yard, commissary, and sometimes specialty maintenance. Prisoners can be used for this labor at a low cost, thus saving the prison money overall.

It is no secret that workplace deviance exists within prison jobs. Prisoners have been found smuggling contraband, delivering messages to other prisoners, stealing, and other illegal activity while working inside the prison. Some correctional officers allow this to occur because they are helping or are a part of the corrupted plans of the inmates. An undercover operation in 2014 showed that “guards were paid between $500 and $1000 per smuggled phone” (MacDonald, 2016).

Closely monitoring inmates can reduce gambling, loaning, and extortion. Although, it can be difficult since the inmate-to-correctional officers is disproportionate. Correctional officers should be present when prisoners are running commissary to ensure it is being done correctly. Inmates need closer supervision 24/7 since illicit behavior can occur at anytime. Other useful methods are increasing shakedowns of inmates’ cells, monitoring phone calls and reducing interactions with other prisoners. Prisoners should also be reprimanded harshly when caught doing any sort of prohibited behavior.

Time should be added to their sentence or they should spend time in solitary confinement so they are deterred from doing it again. It will also be a form on general deterrence since other inmates will see the consequences for that type of behavior. However, much of the behavior is tolerated by officers since they are outnumbered by prisoners, and especially if the behavior causes no harm to other inmates. Most of it may be a nuisance to officers since small fights can occur between inmates, but if it is not an immediate threat to staff or inmates then it will be overlooked.

There are far too many inmates to overlook so keeping tabs on who’s gambling or doing loans is the very least of officers’ problems. Sometimes common illicit behaviors are tolerated because officers have too much on their plate and need to worry about bigger problems occurring within prison walls. According to Alarid & Reichel (2013), “Many inmates perfect a skill such as artwork, making cards, and writing poems and sell, trade, or barter that skill for goods (such as snacks, stamps, etc.) or services (ironing a uniform, cleaning a cell, cooking a late night meal).

There is a mutual balance in the relationship between correctional officers and inmates. Cracking down on the sub rosa economy would severely disrupt that balance and turn chaotic. Prisoners would no longer trust guards and over time could cause them to rebel. Officers have the discretion to implement rules and regulations of the prison. “Even though officers are backed by the state and have the formal authority to punish any individual who does not follow orders, they often discover that the best course of action is to make “deals.”

As a result, officers buy compliance or obedience in some areas by tolerating rule breaking elsewhere.” (Clear, Reisig & Cole, 2017) It would be safer for prisoners and officers to allow some sort of a sub rosa economy to occur within prison. Allowing inmates to trade off their food or handmade items would be more acceptable since it is not a security threat. It will allow the prison to operate smoother and keep the balance between officers and inmates.


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Relationship between Correctional Officers and Prisoners. (2021, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/relationship-between-correctional-officers-and-prisoners/

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